ISLAMABAD - Leader of Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq said yesterday that it was a flawed concept that Simla Agreement signed between India and Pakistan excluded the role of United Nations to resolve the longstanding issue of disputed territory of Kashmir.

His remarks came before the opposition parties in the house protested over the absence of Minister for Kashmir Affairs Ali Amin Gandapur during a debate on the ‘unabated curfew and lockdown’ of Indian forces in the Occupied Kashmir and the future strategy of government of Pakistan on it.

Opening the debate on annexation of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir by India on August 5, the opposition leader said that Simla Agreement signed by then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto with India on July 2, 1972 explicitly talked about UN references and there was nothing in it that excluded role of UN on resolution of Kashmir issue. Similarly, he said that Lahore Declaration, signed between the two countries on 21st February 1999, also talked about resolution of Kashmir issue and mentioned the role of UN.

The veteran politician said that it was a misunderstanding among international world and even Kashmiris that Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration were made ignoring resolution of Kashmir dispute. “This is due to the effects of internal politics.”

He pointed out that UN Security Council had passed 20 resolutions on settlement of the dispute and they should not negate the two dozen resolutions thinking they had no value. “The UN charter says that any bilateral agreement—Simla Agreement— would not affect the UN resolution,” he said adding that they should build their case on these resolutions. “The annexation of Kashmir is violation of UN charter and its resolutions.”

He said it was 100th day since India imposed a curfew and locked down the valley and Indian forces were committing atrocities there. “But neither any solution could be found to the problem nor there was any change in the attitude of Indian government.”

The PML-N senator said that his understanding was that Pakistan did not respond effectively to Indian move to bring constitutional changes on Kashmir status. An impression was given that the situation in Kashmir would change after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech in UN but after that India further deteriorated it by saying that Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan would also be merged into the union, he added.

Raja Zafar stressed that there was a failure of international community, UN, Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Pakistan as well to block India’s move to annex Kashmir and find a solution of the disputed territory.

He viewed that India wanted to revoke Articles 370 and 35-A but Pakistan did not give proper attention to what India was planning to do. He showed his surprise why Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government said that they had no relation with Article 370. “We have a relation with this because it had been decided that no non-Kashmiri could buy property in the disputed territory,” he said and added that there was a retreat from Pakistani side that encouraged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to move ahead with his “illegal plans.”

He underscored that the issue has to be re-considered and Pakistan should form a better policy to highlight it and get it resolved.

Former Senate chairman Farooq H Naek, taking part in the debate, said UN was unmoved on the issue it actually was “abetting and aiding the crimes being committed in Occupied Kashmir.” This inaction raises question about legitimacy of the United Nations as an organization, he added.

He said the UN was encouraging Indian government to continue with its oppression in the valley and asked the government to invoke Advisory Council of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

He said the Advisory Council had given advisory opinion for 27 times and had never given an opinion in favour of colonialism and against the right to self-determination. He advised the government to go for it, instead of asking US President Donald Trump to mediate on the issue.

PPP lawmaker said India and Pakistan must engage Kashmiri representatives as full and equal partners in Kashmir negotiations. He also said Kashmir must be opened for international community with free access to the international organizations.

PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said the international community was responsible for the crisis and added that UN must be asked and tasked to look into the dispute. She pointed out that Kashmir issue was a nuclear flashpoint.

Amid on-going debate, the opposition lawmakers protested over the absence of relevant ministers and government officials and raised slogans of “Silence on Kashmir Unacceptable” against the government. They objected to the absence of Foreign Affairs Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and chairman of the all-important parliamentary committee on Kashmir in the house, besides minister for Kashmir affairs.

The protest led the chair to adjourn the house till Wednesday. However, the government said that foreign minister would conclude the debate today (Wednesday) adding he couldn’t get to the house because of the death of his close relative in his hometown, Multan, in the south of Punjab.